The Israeli military is expecting a sharp increase in the number of female soldiers enlisting to serve in combat units, The Jerusalem Post reported  Monday.
The spike is expected to be driven by the addition of a recently announced  co-ed battalion that will be deployed in the Jordan Valley. The Israel Defense Forces expect more than 1,100 female combat recruits to enlist in 2017, including about 900 in reconnaissance units, 200 in artillery units, and 50 in infantry units.
There has been a significant increase in the number of religious female enlistees joining existing co-ed reconnaissance units — Caracal, Bardalas, and Lions of Jordan — that guard Israel’s borders with Egypt and Jordan. The fourth battalion, which has not yet been named, will be launched in March and be operationally active by November.According to the IDF, 38 percent of female recruits ask to be assigned to combat roles, which is one of the reasons that the army is making more of them available to women.
A senior officer told the Post that efforts to increase the number of female combat soldiers was “a smart and good revolution,” because it increased the pool of top commanders. He said that while his battalion is currently composed of 65 percent men and 35 percent women, he hopes that the proportion will be closer to 50-50 in the near future.
“What a woman brings to the battlefield is her maturity and calm nature and we need this,” he said. “A woman doesn’t need to act a man, carrying 45 kilos, for example, she needs to be a woman bringing her unique strength to the unit in the field.”
The IDF was one of the world’s first militaries to open combat positions to women some 20 years ago, and has since made roughly 90 percent of roles available to both sexes. These include “combat roles in the navy, Home Front Command, Artillery Corps and Military Police in the West Bank,” according to the Post. Other positions open to female recruits include operating the Spike (Tammuz) missile and the Skylark drone.
Women currently constitute 7 percent of front-line troops, an increase from 3 percent just four years ago that the army expects will continue to grow. Combat roles are seen as a springboard to senior military, political, and corporate positions in Israel, with many top politicians — including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — having previously served in special forces units.
The Wall Street Journal reported  in December that the IDF planned to test women’s ability to serve in infantry and special forces units, which could open new combat positions for female soldiers.[Photo: Israel Defense Forces / Flickr ]